By Douglas Tate[D]espite our love of traditional “craft” gunmaking, it’s inevitable that computers will play an increasing role in the future of fine shotguns. In recent years “the last touch of the file” has been replaced in some gun factories with machines so accurate that components can, potentially, be assembled into fully finished firearms by semi-skilled labor. Now English gunmaker Boxall & Edmiston, which has been in the forefront of computer-generated design and manufacture while retaining elements of traditional crafts-manship, has created an online tool to create the ultimate custom gun.
Boxall & Edmiston’s “gun builder” is what techie types call a configurator: a software tool that enables website visitors and potential clients to choose different components and options when considering a purchase. According to Drew Boxall, son of founding partner Peter Boxall, the inspiration came in part from “. . . the difficulty faced in explaining the benefits of a bespoke gun, particularly guns as customizable as our own, with over 44 million combinations. We would often have lengthy conversations with clients from around the world about the benefits of something like a ramp or ball-style safety thumbpiece. The gun builder addresses these questions succinctly and has helped customers understand precisely what it is they are buying.”
Drew explained his fiancé’s reaction to the BMW “Mini builder” website, which allows users to customize their car on screen. “After playing with the site for a short while she had answered many of the questions she never dared ask the Mini salesperson. She later purchased the designed Mini, as it had proven itself to fulfill all her car needs—from the comfort of our sofa.”
Boxall & Edmiston’s gun builder will conjure a gun that then can be customized to individual specifications. But you don’t have to be a coding geek to use it. Click on the tool on the website, and a screen appears reading “Craft your gun.” A brief tutorial is followed by images of a side-by-side and an over/under, at which point the user is asked to “Select a gun.” As the cursor is moved over either image, a short explanation of the benefits of each ghosts onto the screen. Then it’s a matter of clicking on a configuration and beginning to customize.
I selected the over/under and was offered the choice between a conventional straight-sided action or a round body. I clicked on the latter and was told to “Customize your gun.” Options included barrel length, rib type and stock style. Explanations of the benefits of each feature are provided, with text written by Peter Harris, one of the UK’s most experienced shooting instructors. Chokes can be calibrated onscreen, as well, and the tool not only projects the weight of the finished gun but also the change in price associated with each option.
The gun builder creates an image of the finished gun and provides views from a variety of angles. After being asked to name my creation, the price popped up with all of my individual customizing factored in. My overall impression of the gun builder is that it is not only a useful tool for anyone interested in a Boxall & Edmiston, but also a fascinating bit of kit for anyone considering a bespoke purchase from any maker.
For more information, visit www.boxallandedmiston.co.uk/gunbuilder. —Douglas Tate